It can be difficult identifying, and differentiating real pearls from their artificial counterparts, especially to the untrained eye. Both may look identical at first sight; however there are various characteristics that separate one group of pearls from the other.

If you want to invest in pearls, it is however important that you recognize the pearls so that you get the jewellery you want.

1. Real pearls are the natural and cultured pearls that come from molluscs living in both saltwater and freshwater environments like sea, marshes, ponds and rivers. These pearls usually have the following characteristics:

2. Real pearls have a fine-grained and gritty texture with scales and fingerprint-like formations which are a result of natural deposition of nacre layers.

3. Real pearls are usually heavy for their size and have a translucent layer of colours on the top of the pearl’s natural colour.

4. Real pearls are seldom identical to each other; they come with small blemishes or imperfections.

Now you know how real pearls look like, you have to learn how imitation pearls are created. They are usually made using powdered mother-of-pearl of other shells, which is bounded together using an adhesive and polished.

Then crystal, glass and even plastic pearls are sprayed with a substance like MOP, lacquer and fish scales to imitate the iridescence of real pearls. These imitation pearls are usually sold without holes wherein its holes are covered by jewellery accessories when used in jewellery. Holes in real pearls are however generally narrower in size and not straight as they are drilled from both sides.


There are basic tests you can use to find out more about pearls. The most common test is rubbing the pearl’s surface over your teeth. Real pearls usually feel gritty while the imitation pearls feel smooth in texture.

Take a look at the pearl under natural sunlight; real pearls exhibit variations in iridescence and colour while the ones that look perfectly identical are usually imitation pearls. Another test involves looking at the pearl through a magnifying glass for bands, bumps or ridges; which are all characteristics of grown nacre.

Of course, to be 100% positive you are buying genuine pearls, you need to have a professional jeweller appraise and certify the pearls. They carry out other tests like x-rays and if you can afford it, a destructive test wherein you have to cut open one of the pearls to reveal its materials.